A study published yesterday in eLife shows that 60% of cancer patients still have COVID-19 symptoms for 7 months after infection, similar to the general population.
University of Texas researchers identified 312 patients at MD Anderson Cancer Center who tested positive for COVID-19 from Mar 1 to Sep 1, 2020, and followed up with them until May 2021. Participants completed daily questionnaires on viral symptoms for 14 days after infection, then weekly for 3 months, and then monthly thereafter.
The researchers also reviewed patients' electronic health records to identify the persistence or emergence of new COVID-related symptoms documented at any clinic or hospital visit in the 30 days before infection and up to 14 months later.
Women much more likely to report symptoms
Median patient age was 57 years, 75% of patients had solid tumors, and 60% reported lingering COVID-19 symptoms for a median of 7 months and up to 14 months.
The most common symptoms were fatigue (82%), disturbed sleep (78%), muscle pain (67%), and gastrointestinal symptoms (61%). Less common symptoms were headache, impaired taste or smell, shortness of breath (47%), and cough (46%).
Women reported long-COVID symptoms much more often than men (63% vs 37%). Of the 188 patients with persistent symptoms, 8.5% were readmitted for COVID-related indications. Rates of risk factors for long COVID (eg, depleted white blood cells, need for extra oxygen, hospitalization, multiorgan failure) were similar in both sexes.
We also found no underlying condition or severity of illness during acute COVID-19 that would predict long COVID-19.
Of note, patients diagnosed as having high blood pressure (BP) were less likely than others to develop long COVID. Although high BP is a risk factor for severe infection, it appears t beo less important for the development of long COVID, the authors said.
"Even in this high-risk patient population, long COVID-19 was not associated with a high rate of hospital admissions," senior author Issam Raad, MD, said in an eLife news release. "We also found no underlying condition or severity of illness during acute COVID-19 that would predict long COVID-19."